Exod 33 notes


וְדִבֶּר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה פָּנִים אֶל־פָּנִים כַּאֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר אִישׁ אֶל־רֵעֵהוּ וְשָׁב אֶל־הַמַּחֲנֶה וּמְשָׁרְתֹו   33:11

יְהֹושֻׁעַ בִּן־נוּן נַעַר לֹא יָמִישׁ מִתֹּוךְ הָאֹהֶל

Exod. 33:11   And the Lord would speak to Moses face to face as a man would speak to his friend.  Then he would return to the camp, but his minister, Joshua son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from within the tent.

Joshua would remain in the tent, although we are missing two facts.  For one, what is this “tent of meeting?”.  It could not have been the tabernacle, which is also called the tent of meeting.  That name for the Tabernacle has been mentioned numerous times before and will continue to be in much of the rest of the Torah.  We also are missing the fact that Joshua would be entering the tent in the first place.  Did he enter when Moses set it up?  How was he to enter?  With Moses?  In any case, I presume the Lord would be training him there for his future responsibilities.  According to the sages, Joshua would be there to prevent other Israelites from entering the tent.  My best guess is that he might have been guarding the freewill offerings of the people, which might have been stored there after their collection, which occurs in Chapter 35.

We should augment the above discussion by addressing the phrase, “a young man.”  How old could Joshua have been at this time?  Sages and scholars have claimed that Joshua was in his fifties.  That doesn’t fit the use of the Hebrew term, r[;nê, which usually applies to a young man, lad, boy, or young servant.  The same sages and scholars prefer to think of the term as describing a servant, not necessarily one who is young.  My problem with that is it makes the verse awkward.  Does “... but his minister, Joshua son of Nun, a servant, would not depart ...” seem appropriate?   No where else in the bible is Joshua referred to that way (except in the book of Joshua where he is called a servant of the Lord).  So how old might Joshua have been?  All we know about Joshua’s past is that his father was Nun, and all we know of him is that he was of the tribe of Ephraim, which we find out in Numbers (Numb. 13:8).  In Judg. 2:8, we will learn that Joshua died at the age of 110.  Apparently, the sages counted back from that time to this and calculated that it was fifty-five years earlier.  However, we are not told in Judges how long after the children of Israel settled in their inheritance that Joshua died.  He apparently lived for some time after they entered Canaan, from what we find in Judges, but how long we don’t know.  I presume the sages assumed it to be fifteen years, to arrive at his age in this verse of 55.  Incidentally, that would have made him ninety-five years old when he led the people into Canaan.  I claim that we can’t tell how long he lived after that.  I believe that Joshua was not more than thirty years old and perhaps still in his twenties at the time depicted in this verse.  That might have qualified him for the appellation of “young man.”  Then when he led the Israelites into the land of Canaan, he would have been between about sixty and seventy.                              [Back]